Winter hikers spot signs of life in reforested farmland
MONTVILLE — Snowfall and slick conditions didn't deter a group of a dozen hikers from gathering at the Whitten Hill trailhead parking area on Halldale Road in Montville Sunday, Jan. 19, to participate in a "Animals in Winter" hike, sponsored by the Sheepscot Wellspring Land Alliance (SWLA) and led by Paul Flynn, wildlife expert and owner of the Freedom General Store, and Maine Natural Areas Program intern Nicole Lutkemuller. Most participants were wearing ice cleats, crucial for the icy trail conditions.
At various points along the 3.4-mile Northern Headwaters Trail, the group stopped to observe cellar holes, stone walls, animal tracks, stripped bark and other signs of life, and learned about the history of human use of the land — primarily as farmland — and the ways wildlife now use the area in winter.
The trail is part of 18 miles of inter-connected trails in Montville, Knox and Liberty, through 1,350 acres of land in the upper Sheepscot River watershed preserved by SWLA. That land, together with Frye Mountain Wildlife Management Area and areas preserved by Georges Rivers Land Trust, forms a large expanse of undeveloped land (crossed by a few roads) which provides rare contiguous habitat for diverse wildlife including mice, squirrels, hares, deer, coyote, moose, black bears and possibly mountain lions.